In the basement of the Boston Globe is a room with tall bookshelves; some
cramped with manila folders ready to burst with old newspaper clippings others a filled with history books and encyclopedias. This was the Internet before the Internet was invented. “It was a completely different world,” Lylah M. Alphonse explained, “When someone was working on a story they would come down here if they needed to look something up – it was called combing through the archive.”
Now journalists can track down a wealth of information without leaving their desk and all the sources can be linked directly into the article for any reader to verify for their self. “This has been a major, major, major change in how a lot of journalists have to adapt to today’s world”.
The Internet may have made finding information easier for journalists but it has also made it easier for newsreaders. Over the years more and more people are flocking towards the Internet as their primary source for the news, threatening the future of print media.
And if the archives felt a bit archaic, the printing press down the hall looked like a relic left behind from the Industrial Revolution. It was big, yellow, and making lots of noise. It is an impressive machine and also one of the reasons The New York Times wants to cut back on the Boston Globe.
“This costs a lot to run,” Alphonse yelled over the hisses and buzzing coming from
the printing press. “Paper isn’t getting any cheaper. Ink isn’t getting any cheaper. Man power, expertise, none of it is getting any cheaper but it is getting used less often.”
Nowadays more people are subscribing to on-line articles rather than print. One of the major differences being that on-line is free for a majority of newspapers – including the Boston Globe.
Originally, with the advent of the Internet, it was seen as a tool to supplement the print and put on-line for free assuming people would still buy the paper. Now the news has been available for free for so long that nobody wants to pay for it anymore.
On top of people not feeling inclined to pay for the news, advertisements can only take up so much of the page. One of the newspapers greatest sources of revenue was the classifieds which are also available now online in their free internet form via Craigslist.com, a free open market for buying and selling, even for romance. Craig Newmark declined to comment further on the situation saying, “not sure I want to make it worse”.
The Boston Globe lost an estimated $50 million in 2008 and the net loss for this year is not looking any better. There are still a number of changes that the Globe can make to more effectively manage their money. Alphonse said, “They still drive a Mack truck around the city to deliver the papers rather than a smart car, a hybrid, even a mini-van would be more cost effective.”
There is still the hope that there is a way to monetize the print and on-line material into a profitable venture. Teresa Hanafin, director of community publishing, reflected on the Boston Globe’s path towards on-line journalism, known as Boston.com: “We were one of the last at this game but we learned from other sites.”
“I knew that when we started targeting specific slices of the population I really believed that it would be successful so the first thing that we did was launch three town sites,” Hanafin continued. While newspapers are dropping in readership, journalists are still looking towards making their on-line counterparts appealing to readers and it looks like community is going to be a key player in all this, as well as a more engaging type of journalism.
Alphonse mentioned the changes that are being made amongst employees, “A lot of staff writers are being handed cameras and said to go out there and shoot some video. We can do some video, a podcast, there are a lot of different options now.”
Just as the idea of looking up the facts from an encyclopedia seems outdated when put next to ease that Wikipedia offers so may the classic idea of a print news story when put next to the multimedia pieces that are taking over news websites.
This goal to succeed, not just from a journalistic standpoint but a financial standpoint as well does add a new dimension to the world of journalism. Hanafin explained, “Now you have to prove the business model before anything gets launched. There has to be market research done, what’s the population, the house hold income, is this site likely to attract people and is it the demographic that advertisers are interested in.”
This is leading to a double-consciousness amongst journalists creating a business mind as well as the impartial journalist mind. Alphonse worries, “that line is getting blurred a bit.”
Against the Deadline: http://vimeo.com/4728791
Lifetime Contracts: http://vimeo.com/4726874